Summary 

Breast cancer in Australia: an overview provides comprehensive national statistics on breast cancer in females, presenting the latest data and trends over time. Differences by remoteness area, socioeconomic status, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, country of birth and international comparisons are also discussed. Although breast cancer is very rare in males, same data on breast cancer in males are also presented. 

On average, 37 females were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer every day 

In 2008, a total of 13,567 new invasive breast cancers were diagnosed in Australian females. Thus on average, 37 females were diagnosed with this disease every day. Breast cancer was the most common cancer in females, representing 28% of all reported cancers in females, with the majority (69%) of cases diagnosed in females aged 40-69.

The number of new breast cancers more than doubled between 1982 (5,310 cases) and 2008 (13,567). The sharp increase in age-standardised incidence rate between 1990 and 1995 is most likely due to the introduction of the national breast cancer screening program. The rate has remained fairly stable since 1995.

Breast cancer mortality in females is decreasing and survival is improving 

A total of 2,680 females died from breast cancer in 2007, making it the second most common cause of cancer-related death for Australian females after lung cancer (2,911 deaths). The agestandardised mortality rate for breast cancer decreased between 1994 and 2007 by 29%.

Between the periods 1982-1987 and 2006-2010, 5-year relative survival from breast cancer increased from 72% to 89%. These gains in survival from breast cancer may be due to a combination of earlier diagnosis associated with screening, and better treatments.

However, some sub-groups of the population have lower survival than others, for example, females living in Remote and very remote areas of Australia and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females.

Australian females diagnosed with breast cancer had better survival prospects compared with their counterparts in other countries and regions.

The number of screening mammograms and hospitalisations of females for breast cancer has increased 

While the age-standardised participation rate in mammography screening through BreastScreen Australia remained steady in the 10 years from 1999-2000 to 2009-2010, the number of women aged 50-69 participating in this program increased by 34%.

In 2009-10, breast cancer was responsible for 27% of all cancer-related and 3% of all hospitalisations among females in Australia. In this period, there were just over 113,000 hospitalisations of females due to breast cancer, which was 72% higher than in 2000-01.

The future 

Given the ageing population, the number of females diagnosed with invasive breast cancer is expected to increase. Projections suggest that in 2020, the number of new breast cancer cases will be about 17,210. This would equate to 47 females being diagnosed with breast cancer every day in 2020.